Why James Hetfield Had to Give Up Skateboarding
Metallica were set to perform on Saturday Night Live, then complete a new album, when James Hetfield broke his wrist while skateboarding for the second time in less than a year on March 26, 1987.
The SNL performance was canceled, and the release of Garage Days Re-Revisited got pushed back to August while Hetfield healed up again. After that, the band's management company reportedly added a clause to his contract that forbade skateboarding while Metallica were out on tour.
Hetfield has said that the hobby actually took hold amid the tedium of life on the road. He told Thrasher magazine in 1986 that he "wanted something to do on tour, because there was a lot of idle time when we're not doing anything. And I don't drink as much as I used to, so it mellows me."
Even back then, Hetfield admitted to a few bumps and bruises. "There was a couple of shows where I had to have my ankle taped up, for like a week," Hetfield said. Metallica's manager, he added, had a hard-line response: "We told the management, 'Hey, look we're thinking about taking boards out on tour.' I thought he was going to go, 'Oh shit, no way, you can't.' He just said, 'Well, you break something, you still play.'"
And that's exactly what happened the first time, when Hetfield broke his wrist during a tumble off a skateboard on July 26, 1986. Then doing support shows with Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica continued with Hetfield on vocals while tour technician John Marshall took over rhythm-guitar duties.
Decades later, with Hetfield's skating days behind him, there remains a strong attachment between the sport and Metallica's fans. "It always seemed like the skaters and the surfers were really connected to the music of Metallica," bassist Robert Trujillo said in 2015. "There's a connection to those type of people. It's similar energy. You see at these events they're playing a lot of hard rock metal and punk rock."
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